The Truth About Being a Makeup Artist in the Movies

Updated on July 7, 2020
Kenna McHugh profile image

I wrote and contributed to books on film and worked in the modeling and film industries. I like to share insights into both businesses.

Renae Goodhew is one of the most in-demand VFX and makeup sorcerers in Hollywood. Horror is her specialty.
Renae Goodhew is one of the most in-demand VFX and makeup sorcerers in Hollywood. Horror is her specialty. | Source

Makeup Artist for Movie Sets

I know some very talented makeup artists who work in the industry, some in San Francisco and others in Hollywood. Being a makeup artist can be a fun and challenging job.

The hardest part is establishing yourself in the industry. You start at the bottom rung and work your way up to the top. If you appreciate working with people on an intimate level, helping people look their best for the camera and fans, you will do fine. But you have to be willing to work super hard and be on your feet all day. Most likely, you will be one of the last people to leave the set. The job is yours if you can handle its responsibility.

Once you have your foot in the door with steady and well-paid work, you can keep it glamorous by setting up appointments with celebrities before red carpets, interviews, and the like. Or you can work on a film set. Whatever you desire.

Whatever you choose as a makeup artist, it is necessary to keep your integrity and never bank on your profession. Keep your cards to your chest and your nose clean. You will succeed far more than your dreams could imagine.

Reana Goodhew: Independent Horror

Reana Goodhew recently wrapped up her work on the "555" video by Jimmy Eat World. Right now, she is on the set of One, a Lance Henriksen horror movie. Her other credits include a horror movie with Eric Roberts called 7 Deadly Sins, William Baldwin and Bill Moseley in Minutes to Midnight, and Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, and Kane Hodder in Harrison Smith's Death House.

Creating Body Parts, Wounds, Fake Heads, and Dead Bodies

"I'm a huge horror fan. The first horror film I saw was The Exorcist, with Dick Smith's makeup. From there, I fell in love with all the Hellraiser movies, Halloween, and so forth."

Goodhew talks about becoming a professional makeup artist in Hollywood. "I like the challenge of creating good horror makeup. Making something horrifying look truly believable is a challenge," she exclaims.

She also enjoys working in horror because "you're able to create things aside from application makeups." She is talking about creating body parts, wounds, dead bodies, fake heads, and so on.

"I definitely get to use my artistic background to create and color, which I enjoy," adds Goodhew.

She has been working as a special effects makeup artist for seven years. Her background comes from art in painting and sculpting, but she attended Cinema Makeup School.

The advice she gives to those who want to work in Hollywood:

"Work hard, be persistent, and always keep pushing yourself. As an artist, we never stop learning or growing in our career. Always try to build on your skills, even when you're not working on a job. Not everyone will have the same path pursuing makeup as a career. There are so many options. Ultimately find your path and go with it."

"Echos of Fear" shows some of Goodhew’s creature work.

Living in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York

Los Angeles, California:
Los Angeles, CA, USA

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San Francisco, CA:
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"Laura's" Stage Jobs

Laura lived in Los Angeles and worked at a cosmetic counter when she got involved in doing makeup on performers for school plays.

While putting makeup on the performers, she studied, learned the different stage makeup, and eventually knew how to apply all types of makeup on a performer.

In the process, she discovered how much she liked doing makeup, and she flourished in her career.

Movie Jobs

Deciding that she wanted to make this her career in films, Laura got in touch with some of the major studios.

However, they wouldn't hire her because she wasn't a union member, and she needed to have a job to be in the union.

The standard problem for most novices in film careers is you need the experience to get a job, but you can't get experience unless you have a job.

Joe Harlow Sets the Tone

The remake of Hellboy revamps the character and makeup design. In this interview with Oscar winner, Joe Harlow sets the tone of what the crew did to create a new Hellboy character. Listen to what Harlow says about designing the look of Hellboy and imagine how much work went into creating the comic book anti-hero.

Hellboy Special Character Makeup Design

The standard problem for most novices in film careers is you need the experience to get a job, but you can't get experience unless you have a job.
The standard problem for most novices in film careers is you need the experience to get a job, but you can't get experience unless you have a job.

Makeup Artist Film Jobs

Laura decided to contact several independent movie companies because independent films usually have an agreement with the union that they don't have to hire union members.

With some persistence, she talked her way into a job on a biker movie as a makeup assistant, helping the makeup artist do whatever she wanted her to do.

Another essential point to breaking into the film business is to do whatever the production needs to help get the movie made. You have to be willing to work hard and be ready to serve your immediate boss.

Although the work wasn’t easy, she enjoyed herself and knew she was taking a step in the right direction.
Although the work wasn’t easy, she enjoyed herself and knew she was taking a step in the right direction. | Source

Horror Movies

As these things started to happen, one thing led to another, and eventually, Laura got a job working on a horror film.

She helped create and do the makeup for the monster character in the film. Although the work wasn’t easy, she enjoyed herself and knew she was taking a step in the right direction.

Makeup Artist for Movies Job Description

Horror Film

Laura is still working as a makeup artist for independent movie companies that produce horror, science fiction, and biking films.

She still doesn't have a union card, but she is making a good living at doing what she does best—creating monsters.

All in all, she will join the union eventually. When she does, all her hard work will have paid off.

Lucas Godfrey's Special Effects Makeup for Hell Fest

The interview with Lucas Godfrey, who did special effects makeup for the horror movie Hell Fest and The Walking Dead series, talks about his experience with special effects makeup during the production of Hell Fest.

Watching these type of interviews help you grasp an understanding of what these people do and understand who they are. The more you know about them and their credits, the more chances you have of recognizing them and their work.

Nothing impresses an artist more than someone truly recognizing them for their work in films.

What Do You Think?

In which industry would you like to be a makeup artist?

See results

One Way to Get Started

Laura’s advice for those who want to do special effects makeup is to get a job selling cosmetics. “Once you learn the basics,” she says, “you can offer to do makeup for school and community theaters, or talk to your friends into letting you practice on them. The important thing,” she asserts, “is to practice your craft.”

Salaries for Makeup Artists in the Movies

Makeup artists on a film set make roughly $40 - $50 an hour, depending on the production. They make $73,250 to $88,200 or more a year.

All in all, you can live your dream and become a makeup artist in any field. Laura entered a fabulous field that is rewarding artistically as well as financially. The same thing can happen to you if you learn your craft and start finding jobs.

© 2016 Kenna McHugh


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    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      22 months ago from Northern California

      Hi Tami, Thank you for reading my article, and I hope it is helpful. Lucas Godfrey has worked on my horror films and he is such a great resource of information about the horror movie business. Personally, I don't know him. The video was sent to me from the production company. I recommend posting your resume on both film community sites and Facebook pages. Horror movies are a great way to break into the film industry because they are low-budget and usually hire non-union crews.

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      I do makeup for local theaters in Bend. I'd love to have a gig with a horror film. That would be so much fun and its been my dream. Lucas Godfrey's interview is informative. How were you able to get him to do the interview? Do you know him personally? Can you introduce me to him so I can give him my resume?


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